The Oklahoma Senate
• The whole Senate is now focused on floor votes on bills in order to beat the March 11th deadline to have bills heard out of the house of origin.
• The Senate approved the following bills on Monday:
-SB 1119 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Rep. David Braddock would change the way telecommunications providers in Oklahoma are regulated. The measure would create a system called "market-based parity," in which the market and consumers would determine prices rather than regulation. Supporters say that competition among telephone companies should keep prices low. In the version of the bill that passed the Senate, the measure would place into state law a provision that would allow all of Oklahoma to benefit from competition in the major metropolitan area. The bill provides that the highest local phone rate charged in rural Oklahoma by the state's largest phone company could be no more than the lowest rate charged in the metropolitan areas. The measure passed 42-2.
-SB 1534 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson and Rep. Pam Peterson focuses on recruitment efforts toward teachers at high-poverty schools, low-achieving schools and in counties with the lowest percentage of teachers with National Board Certification and requires a specific number of teachers to work at schools on the school improvement list as determined by the No Child Left Behind Act. The bill and emergency passed 34-8.
-SB 1123 as amended by Sen. Jeff Rabon and Rep. Mike Mass would allow the board of county commissioners of each of the 77 counties in Oklahoma to establish a longevity pay program for county employees. The program would exclude any county elected officials. The bill passed 44-0.
-SB 1332 by Sen. Frank Shurden and Rep. Larry Rice would
require information regarding the processing of poultry waste as a fuel
source to be submitted by the Department of Agriculture. It would require
the Corporation Commission to abide by requests for information related
to the report and in return the Grand River Dam Authority would be required
to comply with information requests. The bill and emergency passed 43-0.
-SB 1392 by Sen. Owen Laughlin and Rep. Gus Blackwell would allow the courts to require a defendant to reimburse all actual costs of incarceration if convicted or upon entry of a deferred judgment and sentence. The bill and emergency passed 45-0.
-SB 1506 by Sen. Harry Coates and Rep. Elmer Maddux would authorize shipment of wines into the state to persons 21 years or older. The bill passed 30-13.
-SB 1542 as amended by Sen. Jonathan Nichols and Rep. Thad Balkman would amend current law to increase the fingerprinting fee of an individual convicted of any offense, including traffic violations from $3 to $5. The bill passed 39-2.
SB 1549 by Sen. Frank Shurden and Rep. M.C. Leist establishes the first Tuesday in a presidential election year as “Senator Keith Leftwich Day” to commemorate the Senator who was the principal author of the legislation that moved Oklahoma’s primary to the first Tuesday in March. The bill passed 41-0.
-SJR 52 by Sen. Harry Coates and Rep. Elmer Maddux calls for a vote of the people to allow winemakers to sell wine they produce to any wholesale distributor and receive orders for wine to be delivered or shipped to consumers. The resolution passed 44-1.
• The House was also working to get bills heard on the floor. Among those measures that were considered:
-HB 2613 by Rep. Joe Sweeden and Sen. Angela Monson would require that any health benefit plan issued, offered or renewed in Oklahoma include coverage for comprehensive tobacco dependence treatment programs. The bill passed 51-48.
-FS for HB 1853 by Rep. Dale Turner and Sen. Dick Wilkerson would create the Mary Rippy Violent Crime Offenders Registration Act, which will require any person who has been convicted or received a suspended sentence for a crime or an attempt to commit a crime to register with the Department of Corrections and local law enforcement after conviction. The bill passed 95-5.
-HB 2541 as amended by Rep. Lucky Lamons and Sen. Sam Helton would require appraisers that negotiate surface damages to be state certified. The bill passed 65-33 and the emergency passed 69-30.
-HB 1828 by Rep. Thad Balkman and Sen. Scott Pruitt would require any state agency to provide a written response to an applicant when denying a license, permit or tax exemption. The bill passed 98-2.
-HB 2399 as amended by Rep. Dale Smith and Sen. Charlie Laster would change provisions related to the age-based restriction for Oklahoma Firefighters and allow a person 45 years of age or older to serve as a firefighter only if the individual performs administrative duties. The bill passed 99-0.
-HR 1035 by Rep. Jerry Hefner memorializes Congress to enact legislation to support research, development, and construction of the Interstate Traveler Project through the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21). The resolution passed.
• Governor Brad Henry signed into law SB 553 by
Sen. Cal Hobson and Rep. Larry Adair, which creates the State Tribal
Gaming Act. The bill will regulate the state’s tribal gaming and
will create a new funding source for education.
Tuesday, March 9th
• The Senate met on Tuesday and heard the following legislation:
-SB 841 by Sen. Mike Johnson, Owen Laughlin and Rep. Ray
Young would change the date when sales and use taxes are due from the
15th to the 20th day of each month. The bill and emergency passed 40-1.
-SB 1397 by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. David Braddock
would allow child victims of a sexual crime to take civil action against
their offender for up to five years of the perpetrator’s release
from incarceration. The bill and emergency passed 43-0.
-SB 1430 by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. Joe Dorman relates to insurance fraud. Any information given to a physician for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of the patient’s condition in an effort to unlawfully obtain insurance benefits by fraud is not a privileged or confidential communication. The bill and emergency passed 42-0.
-SB 1547 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson and Rep. Joan Greenwood would create the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Partnership Act to assist people with long-term care needs. The program would be administered by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority with assistance by the Oklahoma Insurance Department. The bill passed 41-0.
-SB 1551 by Sen. Charlie Laster and Rep. Joe Dorman would provide for income tax deduction for capital gains taxes on Oklahoma property. The measure would eliminate the capital gains tax on Oklahoma property after five years of investment. The bill passed 46-1.
-SB 969 by Sen. Cal Hobson, Sen. Stratton Taylor, Sen. Mike Morgan, Sen. Ben Robinson, Rep. Larry Adair, Rep. Bill Mitchell and Rep. Jack Bonny renames I-240 between the intersections of I-35 and I-44 in as the “Keith Leftwich Memorial Loop.”
• The House approved several appropriations floor substitutes on Tuesday and took floor action on the following bills:
-HB 2661 by Rep. Larry Adair, Wayne Pettigrew, and Sen. Cal Hobson relates to tort reform. The bill would require attorney fees in class actions to include non-cash benefits in certain circumstances and authorize the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction in class actions. Several amendments were made to the bill. The measure passed 91-8.
-FS for HB 2602 as amended by Rep. Al Lindley and Sen. Debbe Leftwich would create the Latino Affairs Commission to work toward promoting unity, purpose and understanding among the Latino community in Oklahoma. The bill failed by a vote of 40-53. A motion to reconsider was made by Rep. Lindley.
-HB 2243 by Rep. Lance Cargill and Sen. Cliff Aldridge would increase the fine for transportation of an open container to $200. The bill passed 87-8.
-HB 2411 as amended by Rep. Richard Phillips and Sen. Nancy Riley would remove language restricting commissioned officers from contributing to political campaigns and would require lobbyists to pay a $250 registration fee to the Ethics Commission. It would also be illegal to receive a contribution within 300 feet of an office used to normally conduct state business. The amendment would not allow money to be taken from Indian nations that are not registered. The bill passed 70-27.
-HB 2588 by Rep. Curt Roggow and Sen. Harry Coates would
provide an exemption to a person who brings wine into Oklahoma from
out of state for an exhibition at a state, county or municipal fair.
The bill passed 77-15.
• The Senate heard several bills on Wednesday. Among those were the following pieces of legislation:
-SB 1091 as amended by Sen. Glenn Coffee and Rep. Ray Vaughn would require computer technicians and computer repair and maintenance personnel to report any images of child pornography found on any computer to the police. The bill passed unanimously.
-SB 1298 as amended by Sen. Sam Helton and Rep. Bill Nations would allow any municipality to establish a program utilizing a photo-monitoring system at intersections with traffic lights. The bill failed 20-24.
-FS for HB 2007 by Rep. Jack Bonny, Rep. Bill Mitchell, Sen. Mike Morgan and Sen. Ben Robinson is the General Appropriations bill for the expenses of various agencies of the executive, legislative and judicial departments of the state. The measure was a 4.12 increase from last year’s appropriation. The bill and emergency passed 42-0.
-SB 1278 as amended by Sen. Owen Laughlin and Rep. Gus
Blackwell would establish abandonment of duty as a cause for termination.
The amendment clarified that if a teacher missed five consecutive days
and had not contacted the school during that time then the individual
would be terminated. The bill passed 37-5 and the emergency passed 39-4.
-SB 1561 as amended by Sen. Harry Coates and Rep. Bill Paulk would create the Fair Pay for Construction Act as well as establish guidelines and procedures for billings and payments. The bill passed 37-4.
-SJR 53 by Sen. Penny Williamson and Rep. Debbie Blackburn would call for a vote of the people so districts with more than 30,000 students may increase local support levies by an amount of one to no more than five mills with the revenue going to support the needs of the school district one fiscal year at a time. The bill passed 31-11.
-FS for HB 2660 by Rep. Larry Adair and Sen. Cal Hobson provides for an increase of the sales tax on cigarettes and provides for appointment of funds. The bill passed 76-23.
-HB 2003 by Rep. Jack Bonny, Rep. Bill Mitchell, Sen.
Mike Morgan and Sen. Ben Robinson would take part of the funds collected
from the cigarette tax to fund a 7 percent pay raise for state employees.
The bill was laid over.
-HB 2415 as amended by Rep. Fred Stanley and Sen. Ben Robinson would establish the Dental Hygiene Advisory Committee to advise the Board of Dentistry on all matters relating to dental hygienists. The bill failed 44-55.
-HB 2600 as amended by Rep. Danny Hilliard and Sen. Angela
Monson would require anyone transporting an open container of alcohol
to be subject to a $100 trauma care assessment. The bill passed 100-0.
-HB 2370 as amended by Rep. Tad Jones and Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would provide a salary cap for members who return to teach in a public school after retirement. The amendment requires the district to pay 14 percent to the retirement fund for retired employees rather than 7 percent. The bill failed 44-44.
-HB 2534 by Rep. Purcy Walker and Sen. Kenneth Corn would require informed and voluntary consent of a woman who is receiving an abortion, except in the case of medical emergency. The bill and emergency passed 98-0.
Thursday, March 11th
• The Senate convened at 9:00 a.m. and continued working through measures on 3rd reading before adjourning and will reconvene on Monday, March 15th at 10:00 a.m.
• Gov. Brad Henry held a press conference on Wednesday praising the House of Representatives for passing HB 2660, which would allow the people of the state to vote to raise the sales tax on cigarettes. Funds from the tax would go to Oklahoma’s health care system.